Friday, 19 September 2014

Project: Special processing

Selective processing and prominence

Finally, I looked at the post-production ways to redress the balance between people and place in my images.

There is only a slight variation in brightness between the Images 1 and 2 - just enough to make the juice seller more visible and to lit up the inside of the stall window. It is a very small and subtle change but it seems to add weight and rebalance the picture, for example, the figure in back seems somewhat less dominating.  I used the adjustment brush available in Adobe Lightroom to change the brightness.
Image 1

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Project: A matter of balance

Balancing figure and space

As we already know, the difference in weight and significance could vary dramatically between the elements of each image. I am including some images below that helped me to explore this in more detail and to learn how to control them.

All of the images in this section were taken on Columbia Road in London.

Images 1 and 2 essentially present the same setting; what is different is the position of a young lady who is browsing at the second hand book stall. Image 1 showing her standing at the further end of the stall so our attention switches from the boy with the camera back to the girl and then to the man in a blue shirt just behind her. Her dominating position in Image 2 grabs our attention straight away, it is her eyes and her face expression that hold our attention and don't let us go. This approach makes for a much stronger human element and is capable of creating a personal connection with the picture.

Image 1

Image 2

Monday, 15 September 2014

Project: People - unrecognisable

Making figures anonymous

My work on the Sense of a Place assignment made me learn a lesson about the importance of weight and balance. 

Each element within the photo frame has a certain weight which determines its capacity to influence the viewer. It does not always correspond to the actual size of the element. For example, as I found out from the previous exercises, a single figure small can have a lot of weight and change the meaning of the picture. It is up to the photographer to decide how to play it. The photographer has the power and ability to make one element of the photo stand out against another or make it less prominent. There are many techniques to achieve this including for example altering the composition, increasing the contrast, or changing the focal length. 

In the images below the presence of people is important because it helps us to learn something about the place itself. 

In Image 1 we see a family of holiday makers enjoying a nice sea view on a city break in Oslo. The family members are sitting together sharing a bench and watching a cruiser ship passing by. We only see the family from the back so we don’t see the people’s faces so it’s hard to make up their identities, face expressions or moods. Their presence however helps us to determine the scale of the passing ship. It also gives us the sense of connection, a link between the people and the ship sparked by their curiosity. 

Image 1 Static - from the back 
The presence of people in Image 2 helps us to see the city through the eyes of its residents. We see a couple sitting on the grass enjoying a picnic and the view of the city marina. As in the previous image, the way the people are positioned makes them unrecognisable and as a result, less prominent. Their presence, however, brings the picture (and the city) to life. 

Image 2

The image 3 takes us back to the Borough Market in London. The essence of any market is in its people: it is the connection and association with people that make it what it is. A photo of a market without people would be unusual showing the place as lifeless and purposeless (unless is taken to illustrate the contrast of a market place outside of its opening hours). On this photo we see the whole background space filled with constantly moving people. We can not make up the individuals’ faces but their presence, the size and the movements of the crowd gives us the feel for and sense of the place. It also helps us to judge the size and the scale of the market and the overarching railway bridge. Our gaze follows the two figures of the girls in the foreground as they draw us closer to the market. Again, we see them from the back with their faces being slightly blurred by the movement and obscured but it is the direction of their movement and their general appearance that help us to interpret the picture. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Project: Quiet places, busy places

Busy traffic

Photography allows us to see the unseen as demonstrated by the images of human traffic patterns and flows.

I've always been fascinated by the flow of the human traffic. It's been one of my favourite subjects to record with my camera.

Earlier this summer I made a visit to the Borough Market in London which offered me a great opportunity to watch the tidal flows of the market customers and onlookers. A small selection of  images from that visit was included in my previous blogposts and I am sharing one photo from the same visit below.

Perhaps, one disadvantage of the market as a setting for this type of image is the lack of any proper elevation points to observe the crowds from above. There is only so much you can see from the ground level! Still, this is a wonderful place to observe and record the patterns of the human traffic flows.

Bear in mind that using a tripod is essential and if you have a tripod on you, you will be approached by the watchful market wardens who will ask you to leave if you don't have a permission to photograph.

Image 1. London Borough Market

Another opportunity to observe and record the human traffic flow presented itself during my visit to Oslo.

Oslo has some wonderful museums and here is a photo of my personal favourite place to visit.

The Viking Ship Museum is located on one of Oslo's islands and features a specially constructed building to house a real, full size Oseberg Viking long-ship.

I loved the feel of the museum and was appreciative of the fact that the museum wardens did not seem to mind me taking photos.

I was also pleased to find an elevation point which allowed me to take some photos of the crowds flowing around the boat. It made the whole scene look and feel alive as if not just the waves of the visitors were embracing the boat but the boat itself was silently and slowly sailing through the crowds.

Adding to the mystery of the scene, the wall-mounted lights made the ceiling look greenish - I reduced but decided against removing the tint altogether in Photoshop as I thought it suited the setting.

Comparing images 2 and 3, the image 2 gives us a better understanding of the setting as we are able to see more of the museum building itself. It shows us the nature and the function of the building;  is it easy to see from the photo how and why the space was thought through and designed in a very particular way. I think it also better shows the interaction between the visitors, the ship and the building itself even though the people's figures appear to be rather shadowy and blurred.
It is interesting to notice that in my mind and memory, the photo had much stronger associations with the impermanence and the transient nature of things than the actual experience of observing the scene!

Image 2. Oslo Viking Ship Museum

Image 3. Oslo, Viking Ship Museum

My next set of images was taken on a busy afternoon at the Liverpool Street Station. Using the Aperture Mode of my camera allowed me to play with and vary the exposure time and the depth of field to achieve some different effects. I also varied the focal length to get the desired composition. 
ISO was set at 50. 

Image 4: The blurred lines of people's walking were achieved with a 4 sec exposure at f20.
In this shot I focussed on capturing the intense gaze of the man with a box and the flow of people around him and at the background. 

My lesson of working on these images is about the importance of observation and spending time finding out and understanding the ways in which the human traffic flows.    

Image 4. Liverpool Street Station

With images 5 and 6, I was trying to pull back to capture a large number of people waiting for the announcements on the ground floor of the station.

Whilst observing the crowd of people from above, I found that some things about their behaviour were making me feel uncomfortable. For example, I found it unnerving to see so many people standing still and intensely looking in one direction - there was something very unnatural about that. The fact that all these people were turned away from the camera was also very uncomfortable. I decided to capture this whilst varying the amount of movement within my images.

Image 5 has only some hints to the movements within the crowd whilst Image 6 shows the patterns of the movements quite clearly. It is also full of the ghostly "half-present, half-gone" imprints and traces of the human figures amongst those few who stayed still and so were fully exposed. These ghostly images could be brought to life even further using the tools of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom - more on this is in the follow-up exercises...

The exposure makes all the difference between Image 5 and 6: the first image was exposed for 3.2 sec whist the second required 6 seconds exposure. I used a 30 mm lens for these photos.

Image 5. Liverpool Street Station

Image 6. Liverpool Street Station

Finally, a few more images to illustrate my additional learning points.

The best way to show the human traffic flow is by contracting it against the stillness of the surroundings. This works equally well with the groups of people who stand still. Whilst on this assignment, I was constantly screening the setting in search for any small groups of people who were chatting away so to capture them against the flow of the people around them. Images 7 and 8 illustrate this point.

Image 7. Liverpool Street Station

Image 8. Liverpool Street Station

My next lesson is all about the timing: there are lulls and surges of the human traffic and at times the station appeared almost empty. To capture the human traffic, it is important to be there at the right time!
Image 9. Liverpool Street Station

One more lesson: it helps to look for patterns of colour as the results can be fascinating - see the example below.

Image 10. Liverpool Street Station

Finally, consider the black and white where it fits the theme. These ghostly shadowy figures looked more like bopping and washed out blotches of colour before I desaturated this image.  

Image 11. Liverpool Street Station

A variation on the human traffic theme (below) was shot in at the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham. This time the flow was created by the moving escalators rather than walking people.

With the Image 12, I composed the shot to make the space for the three different escalators moving in opposite direction. I made a few shots and then chosen the images with most attractive combination of colours/ contrast. I also wanted the still advert to be featured in the shot contrasting against the movement around it.

Image 12. Bullring SC, Birmingham

With the Image 13, I zoomed in on a smaller section of the escalators and made a faster exposure to get more defined figures of people. On reflection, I still prefer the first shot as it has more purpose to it.  
Image 13. Bullring SC, Birmingham

Finally, with the image 14, I pulled back to show the wider setting. We are able to see the people spilling out of the shops on the floor below and queuing up for the escalators as well as the blurred colourful flows of the human traffic stretching up and down the image frame. 

From the technical point of view, it was easy too execute the images in Bullring. The lighting was bright and stable, the human traffic patterns were highly predictable, the escalators' speed was consistent and so was the flow of the human traffic. There were no lulls at all, just a constant stream of people's movement - up and down, and down and up, crowded, stifling, mindless. Oh, the insanity of the shopping culture! May we wake up from this great delusion! 

Image 14. Bullring SC, Birmingham

Monday, 8 September 2014

Project: Quiet places, busy places

A single figure small -II

Thinking further about the impact and the meaning of a single figure small, the selection of images below helped me to analyse this in a variety of different settings.

In image 1, there is a sitting figure featured inside a cathedral. It is positioned at the lower right quarter of the image and blends in quite well with the tonal range of the surroundings. This means it is quite possible to miss it at first and only realise it is there when following the rows of chairs towards the well-lit up altar at the back of the image.

The image would certainly look and feel differently without any people present, equally it would have a different feel if there are a lot of people captured in the shot.

The presence of the figure and its positioning within the frame certainly makes an impact though I wonder if it might also introduce an element of a cliche, leading the viewer to a certain way of perceiving this image.

Image 2: I could not help and had to take this photo - the opportunity attracted me as it showed a small figure facing a large cruiser ship passing by. To make the impact even more significant, this person seemed to be standing on a single rock perched out of the water and was surrounded by the sea.

To emphasise the scale of the cruiser ship I made sure that the tiny specks of human figures dotted around its deck area are included in the picture.

I positioned the man's figure at one of the cross points of the frame's grid to make the full use of the rule of thirds.

It won't be easy to miss the black figure as it stands out so well against the blue sea water all around it.

The single figure makes a strong point here - without it the interpretation of the photo would be totally different.

I think it is quite light and humorous and it makes me think about the human as the Creator, the world we made for ourselves and the human vulnerability of facing the man-made technological miracles and devices.

Image 3 present us with a slightly different setting.
Here we observe someone sitting on a wooden decking boards outside of a building, facing away from the camera and looking out at the sea.

Similar to the previous two images, the figure is quite anonymous - it would be difficult to make many assumptions about the person as they are too far from us and we don't see their face.

Again, observing the rule of thirds I dropped the figure to the lower left corner of the image. The lines of the decking areas and the outline of the building on the right hand side lead the viewer's eye to the man's figure making it difficult to miss it.

When taking the photo I could not help noticing that the person's reflection was missing from the window reflection. This made me think about the impermanence and how things sometimes don't seem what they are and how our reflections do not always match our perceived reality. So, for me as the creator of this image, the human figure was one of the decisive elements of this picture. I hope it plays a certain role for my viewer too.

Finally, the image 4 present us with a moody and foggy summer night scene. Once again we are by the sea, there is a building on a right hand side of the image and a small dark figure positioned slightly to the left. The figure is dark and very small. It seems insignificant, lost in the fog and the darkness of the night. It is easy to miss, though its relative darkness makes it stand out against the grey and lit-up background.

The person is moving away from us and we can track the line of the street lights along the route that they seem to follow.

In this image the figure seems so insignificant, merely a punctuation mark lost in a vast and dark space. Nevertheless, it is there to play a very important role - it connects the different elements of the image together. For some, it might perhaps bring a conclusive meaning or simply add a point.

Some conclusions from this exercise:

- A single small figure can make a significant impact, draw a point, and add a meaning to your image. Think carefully what it is you are trying to say and why you need it in the picture.

- In terms of the composition, its positioning within the frame is important so think where you want it to appear. The positioning could change the dynamics of the image.

- Contrast plays a role here as well - how easy or hard is it to spot? Use darker or lighter background to set the figure against it.

- it is worth to know and plan the movement of the figure (if it is moving) - is it moving in or out of the frame? Change the composition accordingly.

- Practice, practice, practice - things become more natural and faster with practice.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Project: Quit places, busy places

A single figure small

What do you feel and sense when facing a vast space?
What do you feel and sense when you spot a single small figure moving through the vast space?
What do you feel and sense when looking at an image of a single small figure moving through a vast space?

There is a viewer.
There is a single small figure moving through the vast space.
There is someone who captured the image of a single small figure moving through the vast space.

What do

Is it a mere punctuation?
A speck of dust
Lost in the vastness of space?

Does it make you feel lonely?

Do you think about the man and the Universe
Your life
Or the life without you?

Does it move you
Leave you indifferent?

Is there a sense of
Breaking free

Is there a feeling of

Does it call for your attention?

Does it emphasise, highlight or make a point?

What is the point?

Monday, 21 July 2014

The many uses of a humble shed

1. A poolroom in a garden shed 

Name: The humble garden shed 
Characteristics: modern; permanent; small size; private
Former functions: a shed
Current use: a pool room 
Main functions: enjoy a game of pool and a drink 
Why do people visit: chat, play and relax.

2. An engine shed 

Buildings in Use: work of others

Whilst preparing my coursework for the assignment 3 I came across many interesting photographic portfolios that gave me inspiration.

I wanted to share the links to some of them here:

Fernando Guerra -

Eddy Joaquim–-eddy-joaquim/

Rus Blees Luxemburg

Simon Kennedy

Friday, 18 July 2014

Learning visit: Digital Revolution, July 2014

As part of my studies for the assignment 3 of People and Place I recently visited Barbican to see this exhibition. 

Described as 'the most comprehensive presentation of digital creativity ever to be staged in the UK' (source: the exhibition was a fascinating place to watch people interacting with technology and space.

It was interesting to notice that:
People had very different approaches to the space around them
Were attracted to different things 
Had their own unique way to connect and explore what was around them.

I took some photos to capture some people during their moments of play and exploration. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Buildings in use: Exploring how space changes with light

For this exercise I selected two locations: my log cabin in my back garden and my village church.

The log cabin

I set my camera on the tripod and left it in one place for a number of days taking photos at different times of day and night. This resulted in the following set of images.

These images were taken at different time of day and in different weather.